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Author ORCID Identifier


Campus-Only Access for Five (5) Years

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Ventura Perez

Subject Categories

Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Latin American Languages and Societies | Political Theory | Social and Cultural Anthropology


Mexico’s education sector is at an inflection point after more than six years of conflict amongst educators, community members, and policymakers over the future of the 2013 education reform. Former President Enrique Peña Nieto passed the reform into law and championed more stringent teacher standards to improve student outcomes, economic growth, and security. This dissertation’s central case study focuses on educators from the Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (CNTE), an alternative to the national union, who I accompanied as they impeded the full implementation of and offered new directions for the reform. Peña Nieto’s term ended in 2018, yet the reform has not yielded the promised outcomes. His successor, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (2018), has pledged to repeal the reform, and to collaborate with educators and community members to transform education. While there is much promise in López Obrador’s pledge, lessons derived from this dissertation suggest that it is essential to continue exposing the technical, structural, and ideological dimensions of policy that can reinforce systemic inequalities.

The anthropological perspective offered in this work contributes to a growing body of literature that probes policy as the object of ethnographic inquiry (Wright and Reinhold 2011; Wedel, Shore, Feldman, and Lathrop 2005, 35), and more specifically, a site of conflict between the state and teachers who refused to back a reform that codified subjection in the Mexican Constitution. This dissertation puts forth a technique for studying policymaking through the lens of violence, and a grounded theory of parallel politicsas they emerged in my fieldwork.It places experiences with overt displays of violence and those that are less visible—poverty, hunger, insecurity, and political marginalization—at the forefront of the policymaking process. In doing so, I hold that we can be inclusive rather than dismissive of those who stand to implement or rebuke policies that seek to reorganize their lives.We may also draw attention to those aspects of policymaking that presage the reinforcement of structural inequalities.This dissertation simultaneously offers critical ethnographic insight into the problems facing the education sector, and into the need for inclusive policy processes and consideration of the catalysts and impediments to generating an alternative future for education.


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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License.